Morning Ethics Catch-Up, 10/19/2018: Digging Out

Good Morning!

My CLE circuit-riding adventure was completed when I returned home last night, and now I have the ethics equivalent of Augean stables facing me. So I’m grabbing my metaphorical shovel, and going to work…

1 Rationalization #22 approach: At least it wasn’t a tweet… During a rally in Missoula, Montana yesterday, President Trump endorsed Montana Rep. Greg Gianforte’s  May 2017 attack on Guardian journalist Ben Jacobs (Gianforte eventually pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault), saying, “Any guy that can do a body slam, he’s my kind of guy.”

I’m at a loss. This comment comes in the context of a Saudi journalist being vivisected and Democrats diving at the low road by encouraging incivility and harassment of conservatives. How aware does someone have to be—not just a President, but anyone—to figure out that it is no time to be praising thugs like Ginaforte, whom I wrote about (twice) here?

2. Pro tip: If you want to hide your status as a left-biased hack, don’t use PolitiFact as authority for your opinion. Those who can’t quickly discern that PolitiFact is a blatant example of that oxymoron, a biased media factchecker, are too biased themselves to be taken seriously. (Most of Ethics Alarms’ self-exiled progressive shills were addicted to PolitiFact). Here is yet another smoking gun: now that an election is looming, PolitiFact is barely even trying to appear objective.

First, PolitiFact awarded a “ mostly false” rating this week to former U.S. Air Force fighter pilot Rep. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., for a campaign ad that says of her Senate opponent, “While we were in harm’s way in uniform, [ Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz.] was protesting us in a pink tutu and denigrating our service.” Even by the service’s own description of the episode, the ad is accurate. Here is PolitiFact’s argument, which is pretty typical of what the news media calls “fact-checking”:

McSally retired from the Air Force in 2010 after 26 years of military service. After 9/11, Sinema led protests against the war in Iraq. At a 2003 rally called “No War! A Celebration of Life and Creativity,” Sinema wore a pink tutu. Media reports of the rallies in 2002 and 2003 quote Sinema as opposing the war and the Bush administration’s policy, but we found no evidence of her disparaging troops. McSally’s statement contains an element of truth but ignores critical facts that would give a different impression. We rate it Mostly False.

Disagreeing over whether or not an anti-war protest disparages troops is not disproving a fact. This, however, is even worse:

The GOP’s Senate Leadership Fund released an ad this week, titled “‘Normal’ MO,” focusing on Senator Claire McCaskill’s penchant for traveling by private plane and alleging that Senator is out of touch with her constituents.

“Claire even said this about private planes,” the ad says, cutting to video of McCaskill saying, “That ordinary people can afford it.”

Responded PolitiFact: “Did Claire McCaskill say normal people can afford a private plane? No.”

The video highlighted in the GOP ad shows an August 2017 town hall in which a constituent asked McCaskill, “You know, that’s one thing the United States has that nobody else has, is the freedom to fly around and be affordable where a normal person can afford it.” McCaskill responded, “Will you remind them when they come after me about my husband’s plane that normal people can afford it?”

PolitiFact apparently never reviewed the whole exchange, falsely writing that “the audience member never said anything about private planes in the clip; he appears to be referencing the freedom and low cost of the overall U.S. commercial aviation system.” Finally,  Politifact took down its McCaskill story, announcing that it would “re-evaluate” it in light of “ new evidence.”  The new evidence is the full video which has been available for months.

“[A]fter publication,” says PolitiFact, “we received more complete video of the question-and-answer session between McCaskill and a constituent that showed she was in fact responding to a question about private planes, as well as a report describing the meeting … We apologize for the error.” But even after getting the full context and confirmation of McCaskill’s remarks, PolitiFact still only gave the GOP ad a “half true” rating, because, it said, the ad “exaggerated” the full context of what the senator was saying. PolitiFact argues that McCaskill’s comments “seem to refer to ‘normal’ users of private planes, not to ‘normal’ Americans more generally.” She said, “Will you remind them when they come after me about my husband’s plane that normal people can afford it?” You tell me: Is PolitiFact clarifying, or desperately spinning for its partisan purposes? [Pointer and Source: Washington Examiner 1,2]

4. Nah, there’s no mainstream media bias—! Yesterday morning on Headline News, I saw Jennifer Westhoven. alleged journalist, in a news segment, actively promoting the minimum wage and equal pay provisions, and telling viewers to be sure to see which candidates supported it. This is campaigning. She didn’t elaborate on the proposed policies, or present their pros and cons. She just outright endorsed them as inherently responsible and virtuous, and told viewers to support candidates who were on record as supporting the measures.

5. What a superb thread! The comments on yesterday’s ethics quiz are among the very best and most thoughtful of any Ethics Alarms post in memory. Thanks to all.

6. Nah, Twitter doesn’t discriminate…Twitter’s recently tweaked “community standards” ban users who use “dehumanizing” language “that treats others as less than human,” including “comparing groups to animals and viruses.” Yet Nation of Islam Louis Farrakhan has called Jews “termites,” and recently joked about it, tweeting a video clip in which he says that he’s not an anti-Semite but an “anti-termite.” Nonetheless, the popular anti-Semite (well, popular with many members of the Congressional Black Caucus, anyway) still has his account. This week Twitter permanently banned Bruce Carroll’s popular GayPatriot account. It had previously suspended him for calling Chelsea Manning a “traitor” and for referring to her by her birth name, Bradley.

(Chelsea Manning is a traitor, whether Twitter lets its users say so or not.)

Social media companies can ban whomever they choose, but eventually society will have to deal with what is rapidly becoming a concerted effort by large tech companies to constrain and manipulate public discourse, debate and free expression. I don’t trust any of these companies to distinguish between “hate speech” and legitimate opinion, or their motives for doing so.

7. One more time: The new, angry left is anti-free speech. This attitudes in this article are increasingly typical: Paul Mason is a Brit, but he would be right at home among American progressives. An excerpt:

“…the task of preventing the evolution of the authoritarian conservative into the fascist is important. I can think of no better way of doing this than excising the entire alt-right from YouTube. Hate speech is, in many countries illegal; incitement to rape and violence is a crime, so why does the world’s third biggest company, staffed largely by liberals, feminists and rationalists, want to make money by providing an echo chamber?… YouTube is not a civil society in miniature: it is a business, and has business ethics and a reputation to maintain. It has already kicked the conspiracy theorist Alex Jones off the platform; it would be very easy to remove not just the open fascists but any of the useful idiot brigade who knowingly platform them and drive customers to their books and lectures.

To do this would require a mixture of redesigned algorithms and prudent human judgement, challenging the fiction that YouTube and other social networks are “platforms not publishers”. It would mean YouTube’s executives having to take an overt business decision that they do not want their platform to be the primary means of spreading far-right ideologies such as “race science” or anti-vaccination mythology. The far-right would still be free to make videos and send them to each other. But by depriving them of network tools and incentives, the world’s primary online video platform would be taking a major stand in favour of democracy. And their sympathisers in the echo chamber would then face a choice: stop driving traffic and attention to the outright fascists, or lose access in the same way.”

That’s right, this is the Bizarro World logic of those who would use fascist tactics in support of “democracy,” just as the anti-Kavanaugh fanatics argue that it violated “democracy” not to condemn the judge as guilty until proven innocent.

If you are not afraid of the implications of the philosophy being advanced by Mason, then I’m afraid of you.

13 thoughts on “Morning Ethics Catch-Up, 10/19/2018: Digging Out

  1. 1. I think it goes without saying that our elected officials shouldn’t physically assault people. I mean, this was bad, one of the worst things I’ve seen in a while, and Trump saying anything positive about the situation is cripplingly stupid. But I have to say it because I’m about to say something negative about the press coverage, and I don’t want to give the impression that I’m giving Gianforte a pass.

    Has anyone else noticed that the media seems to think that the fact that Jacobs was a reporter was the most important thing about the situation? It’s…. I don’t think surprising. The press really likes them some press, and if anyone does something that negatively affects anyone in the brotherhood can expect a whole lot of negative coverage for the foreseeable future…. But I wonder if it’s appropriate. I think the question of whether or not being a member of a journalism outlet ought to make infractions like this more serious than they already are… And I’m failing to come up with a good reason for why that would be.

    Again…. There is no excuse for what Gianforte did. Period. But if he’d done that to anyone who wasn’t a journalist, should the response change? Should the media at large enjoy special protections over and above the average American? I don’t know if that point of view is defensible anymore.

    • ”But if he’d done that to anyone who wasn’t a journalist, should the response change?”

      Lefty journalists are a protected species/privileged group.

      A Righty journalist?

      They was askin’ fer it!

      • Isn’t that the truth though? Feminists like finger painting with bodily fluids for some reason, and I can’t count the number of times Toni Lauren, off the top of my head, has had urine thrown at her. Now, I don’t appreciate Lauren’s brand of punditry, but the fact that she works for a media organization is beyond obvious…. So is the safety and security of media personalities actually important, or is it only important when it’s convenient?

        • I posted that and then I was like… That name is wrong, her parents were mean to her, Jeff! You know this…. I don’t think I could have been more wrong without the name being completely unrecognizable, if there was any doubt, I was talking about Tomi Lahren.

  2. Again, Trump proves himself not a 4D chess master (whatever the hell that is), but instead is a raver with poor, if any, filters. He’s still President and is duly elected, but also quite personally loathsome.

  3. “seem to refer to ‘normal’ users of private planes, not to ‘normal’ Americans more generally.”

    Ah, so if I say that “normal people can afford solid-gold toilets”, it’s understood that I’m referring to ‘normal’ billionaire users of solid-gold toilets, not ‘normal’ Americans. Got it.

  4. I find that the visual* is helpful:

    *Note that YouTube has included a message at the bottom of the video informing that it is presented by the RT network and there is a link to a Wikipedia article! That’s pretty amazing in and of itself! Where will this go, I wonder? Maybe at some point algorithms will determine (:::gulp:::) that even what I say write think express has been informed by *foreign agents* and I will get a by-line that informs my readers about the nefarious origin of my ideas? “Oh Brave New World that has such people in ‘t!”

    In actual point of fact I merely channel my darling Irish Setter, Bonny. And she has no political connections whatever. (But is in direct touch with the Angels).

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